Fertilizer 101: What You Need to Know Before Fertilizing Your Lawn
Everyone knows the feeling of seeing someone’s well-manicured lawn and thinking, “I wish I had that at my house.” People believe that having a nice lawn like that is too expensive or too much work. As lawn care professionals, you know that your clients can have the vibrant, verdant lawn of their dreams just by following the right lawn care steps.
Having a nice lawn doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money buying expensive grass and landscaping accessories. Lawn care experts and grounds keeping professionals know that there is a science to proper grass and landscaping care. If you follow a rigorous schedule when it comes to things like cutting, watering and fertilizing, your lawn will grow stronger and weed-free all season long.
One of the biggest steps for proper lawn care is fertilization. Fertilization is one of those concepts that are easy to understand but difficult to execute without guidance. With the expertise of BPS, proper fertilization technique and some hard work, your lawn will be well on its way to being the best in the neighborhood.
What Does Fertilizer Do For Grass?
There are three main ingredients needed for grass to grow: Sunlight, Water and Nutrients. Fertilizer is what provides these nutrients in the soil. It is the food your lawn needs to grow strong and full. It doesn’t matter how much light your lawn gets or how diligent you are about watering – if you don’t fertilize the soil properly, the lawn will suffer.
Fertilization is the process of adding these nutrients to the soil. The key nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These basic elements are essential to the growth of plants including grasses. As long as these elements are introduced to the soil in a controlled way, you’re fertilizing. The only thing to remember is that you have to make sure not to introduce too much too quickly. Just like overwatering can kill plants and grass, putting too much fertilizer on your lawn can destroy it as well.
What Is The Best Fertilizer For Grass?
In order to understand what a lawn needs, you have to know about the land and soil in the property. The first step to gathering this information is soil testing. Soil testing is a process where the dirt and soil on a property are examined for their chemical composition. This test breaks down the nutrients that are already present, the ones that are lacking and the pH level which is essential for maximum nutrient uptake by plants. It also helps to show what kind of grasses would be most and least successful on that particular soil. This process allows lawn care professionals, vendors and owners to find the best fertilizer for that soil and that project.
For help with soil testing, learn more here.
Fertilizers differ in exactly how they work or what they look like, but they all produce the same end result of adding nutrients to soil. There are two main types of fertilizer which are then broken down into one of four categories based on how they are used.
The first thing to choose with fertilizers is synthetic versus natural. Natural fertilizers are the ones most people are already familiar with, made using organisms and their byproducts and waste. Animal waste, as the best example, is rich in the nutrients lawns need. Synthetic fertilizers are a concentrated form of the basic nutrients delivered in liquid form. Synthetic fertilizer are man-made inorganic compounds. These can be applied as a liquid or granular form. Synthetic fertilizer is the most common fertilizer used for lawn fertilization applications. The choice to use synthetic or organic is best made with help from your vendor or landscaper.
Once that choice is out of the way, you have to decide between the following three categories:
- Time-Release fertilizers – Beneficial at feeding lawns over time and requiring fewer applications
- Granular fertilizers – Used in many home lawns due to ease of application
- Liquid/Water soluble – A fertilizer that can be sprayed out of a hose or using a spray bottle
Considering these options and taking into account the variables of your particular space, BPS will help you pick the best fertilizer for your lawn.
When Should You Fertilize Grass?
Unlike exposure to sunlight or water, fertilizers are best used carefully, in moderation. Unlike people, grass doesn’t know when to stop taking in nutrients. If there are too many in the soil too early in the year, the grass will take on too many nutrients. This results in two problems, overgrowth and weaker growth.
Overgrowth is the easy one to understand. Your grass grows too much and you need to cut it more. This results in more wear and tear on your mower and the lawn.
The second problem is weaker growth. When grass takes in too many nutrients, it results in weaker growth. The grass is less resistant and dies faster. Conversely, if the soil doesn’t have nutrients replenished before winter, it will suffer next season.
At Buckeye Power Sales, we have a proven five-step fertilization program that is carefully designed to feed your lawn while avoiding the pitfalls of self-directed fertilizer programs. This combination of fertilizers applied at specific times throughout the year will help your lawn or property achieve maximum fertility, strength and aesthetic appeal. While this program might be adjusted for your lawn’s specific needs, the basics are listed below:
- Fertilizer 13-0-5 with Barricade – This fertilizer helps prevent crabgrass. Apply in March.
- Fertilizer 20-0-5 with Trimec – This fertilizer helps prevent weeds. Apply in May.
- Fertilizer 15-0-3 with Merit – This compound provides sub-surface insect and grub control. Apply in early June.
- Fertilizer 24-0-5 – Fall fertilizer. Apply in September.
- Fertilizer 46-0-0 – Winter fertilizer to prepare the soil for the cold and should have a high nitrogen content. Nitrogen helps with the overall strength of the plant over winter. Apply in November.
Download our helpful calendar to keep track of your fertilizer schedule.
How to Fertilize Grass?
There are multiple ways to fertilize your grass, depending on your lawn’s particular needs. Some methods are for solid fertilizer in pellet or granular form while others are for liquid fertilizers. Some of the most common methods are listed below:
- Grass Fertilizer – The most common and simple fertilization method is to not pick up your grass clippings. These can provide up to 25% of your fertilization needs
- Rotary Spreader (Solid) – A cart that broadcasts fertilizer. Good for large areas, providing lots of coverage
- Drop Spreader (Solid) – A cart that spreads fertilizer between the wheels of the spreader. Good for medium sized lawns
- Hand Spreader (Solid) – Good for smaller lawns. Most control over amount distributed
- Liquid Fertilizer and Water – This system is good for those using concentrated synthetic or organic fertilizers
How to Care For a Lawn After Fertilizer Has Been Applied?
Once you’ve applied fertilizer, it is important to water the grass according to your lawn’s specific needs. This means knowing about your climate (Cool weather grass versus warm weather grass) and the soil. In an area like Ohio, it is best to water the grass once every week to two weeks in the spring and summer depending on the level of rainfall. A lawn should get between 1-1 ½ inches of water a week year round. Later in the year, you can reduce the amount of watering to once every month or six weeks.
The last point to consider is what to do if you’ve applied too much fertilizer and have burned some of the grass. While the nutrients we’ve discussed are important to growth, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Since most of these minerals are salts, concentrating too much in one area can cause a drying effect causing the grass to “burn” or brown. If this happens, it is important to water that particular area and let the minerals dissipate and dilute into other areas.
Taking care of your lawn can be as easy or difficult as you’d like. There are strategies and budgets ranging from doing as little as possible to being a meticulous lawn and garden owner. Depending on your needs, your lawn will probably be somewhere in the middle.
At Buckeye Power Sales, our Lawn and Outdoor specialists can help you cultivate the exact lawn you need. We also provide support to landscaping professionals and grounds keeping teams to help grow the best lawns in Ohio. Working with our professionals can help you nail down your land’s specific needs while providing you top quality materials, tools and advice to get things done.
Our turf and ornamental program is carefully designed to achieve the best results according to your property’s needs and our climate. If you have questions about fertilizing programs and regiments or want our expert assistance with your property or to help your clients, contact Buckeye Power Sales today and consult with our lawn professionals.